Really year 1 for the nursery?

Collecting quince seed from organic quinces
Collecting quince seed from organic quinces

This time of year we’re twiddling our thumbs waiting for the leaves to drop off the nursery trees so that we can dig them up for people’s bare rooted orders and move them around to make way for new areas of nursery.

Pear seed is stored in sand before planting
Pear seed is stored in sand before planting

We are also collecting and cleaning seed for apple, quince, pear and peach rootstock.

Apples that have been crushed to harvest the seeds
Apples that have been crushed to harvest the seeds

It’s nearly time to collect our plum cuttings which will become next years budding rootstock and we are also beginning to diligently collect and label our scion wood. This is the pieces of first year growth off the varieties of trees that we want to propagate. We store the scions in the fridge until spring when we use it to graft onto our rootstock in the nursery.

Plum cuttings
Plum cuttings

Foremost in our minds at this time of year however is our organic bare rooted fruit tree orders. These orders close this Sunday, June 30.

You might have bought trees from us before … and therefore be wondering why we’ve been saying it’s our first year of operation?

Previously, Katie and Hugh sold trees through Mt Alexander Fruit Gardens. Most of the trees came from a wholesale nursery, supplemented by a few trees from their own nursery (which were left over from what they’d grown to plant in their own orchard).

Then, they finished re-planting the orchard, leased it to Ant (Tellurian Fruit Gardens), and started the Harcourt Organic Farming Co-op (HOFC).

But, we didn’t want to stop growing fruit trees on the farm.

Why?

Because we (Sas and Katie) want to learn as much as we can from our resident master-nurseryman Merv Carr (Katie’s dad), we want to preserve heritage varieties by propagating them, and we want to help as many people as we can grow their own food.

So, Katie and Sas joined forces to start Carr’s Organic Fruit Tree Nursery (named after Merv), and joined HOFC.

Joining the co-op has meant that we’ve also been able to get organic certification for the nursery – in what we think is a Victorian first!

We’ve still got a fairly limited range of organic trees (and quite a few have already sold out, like our multigraft trees), but as our skills expand we’re aiming for the range of trees we sell to expand as well.

In the meantime, we’re supplementing our offering with non-organic trees from our wholesaler – our trees are clearly labelled (organic) on the website so you can tell the difference.

Hopefully that explains the whole picture – get in touch here if you have any questions at all, and jump on the website here to see what’s available and order your trees by June 30.

Cheers,


Katie, Sas and Merv

Tree sales are go!

The season is turning and our beautiful fruit trees are starting to lose their leaves and go dormant for the winter. Katie and Merv have been out amongst them, counting up how many trees of what variety are a good size to sell and loading the information onto the website ready for sale.

We’ve got loads of different varieties of nectarine, peach, cherry, apple, pear, plum and apricots available.

We even have the first of our unique multigrafted trees with up to 4 varieties of fruit on the one tree!! Perfect for people with limited space for growing who want to get the maximum amount of variety in their home-grown-fruit bowl!

If you want to order one of our organic bare-rooted fruit trees, go to the website here:

https://www.mafg.com.au/trees

…and scroll to the bottom of the page to click on the type of fruit tree you’re looking for.

Orders close June 30, 2019.

We are the only certified organic fruit trees nursery in Australia (that we know of) and since it is also our first year selling our trees, we will also supplement the trees we’ve grown ourselves with wholesale trees from another nursery who also specialise in heritage varieties. When you’re ordering, the trees from our nursery have “(organic)” in the name; the trees we buy from an external nursery do not.

You’ll then be able to pick-up your trees from the farm on the weekend of July 13 and 14, between 10 am and 4 pm.

We will also have a Nursery Open Day on Sunday 21 July for a final sale of any trees that weren’t sold in the first round. 

Another big announcement is that we finally have a logo for Carr’s Organic Fruit Tree Nursery!! After much deliberation, debate and fine tweaking over co-op morning tea, we decided to go with this logo that has a hand-drawn image of Merv’s grafting knife at the top of it.

We debated whether anyone would know what a grafting knife is, and whether we should just go with some sort of generic image of a tree, like a million other businesses have. In the end we decided that the knife (even if no one knows what it is) really says more about the nursery and its history. Merv has had this knife for 65 years, since he first started studying horticulture at Burnley College as a 17 year old.

The knife has had so much use over the years that the blade has worn down to almost a sliver, but it still gets pulled out and sharpened for budding every February. It represents the knowledge of an old skill that is being passed down from Merv to Katie and me.

The clincher too is that inscribed on the butt of the blade, and still visible, are the words ‘Oil the Joints’. Poignant.

Time to Bud…

It comes around so quick. Amidst the busy-ness of summer harvest time we somehow find time to kneel among our beautiful seedling root stock nursery and imagine the varieties they will one day be. It’s a little bit Frankenstein, a little bit God, to change the destiny of these wee trees and transform them into the varieties of juicy, tasty fruit we want them to be. But that’s how it works. If we let the trees that we’ve grown from seed or cutting grow to maturity, sure they will fruit, but the fruit will likely be small, not very tasty or both! In the case of citrus and plum seedlings, they will most likely be extremely spiky too! 

That’s where summer budding comes in. By budding we can add one or more know varieties of fruit cultivar to the seedling rootstock. That’s where the Frankenstein thing comes in. You have to have a surgeon’s precision (and ideally over 50 year’s experience like Merv) to cut the fine incisions in the bark of the rootstock trunk (which by now is about the thickness of your index finger), just big enough for the bud to slide in and get taped on. Once the sap starts to flow and join the new bud onto the original rootstock tree then we have success, but if our cuts are a bit outta whack, the bud a bit big or dry, or the season too late then we have to wait again until spring to graft and try again.

February is the ideal time for budding. The rootstock trees are as big as they’re going to get (more or less) and the sap is still flowing, so happy unions between bud and tree can happen. Once the trees start to slow down for autumn and their winter hibernation, then the bark wont ‘lift’ anymore to receive a bud. This week, we (Merv, Katie and Sas) started our summer budding on the peaches. With freshly sharpened knives in hand we budded about 150 trees of all sorts of varieties of peach and nectarine. The rootstock trees we’ve grown from seed we saved out of last year’s bottling adventures. If the buds are successful, the trees should be ready to plant out in winter 2020.

It’s not the most glamorous or elegant activity, spending hours on your elbows and knees carefully slicing open small trees. But it is so incredibly interesting to see how the trees grow and learn about all the different varieties and experiment with different techniques, such as multi-buds on single trees. If we’re creating monsters, at least they’re edible monsters!!!

Grow well

Sas